Do you forget you've been reading "mere" words instead of experiencing the most emotional, exciting moment of your own life? Do you have the urge to light up a cigarette to savor the moment when it's done? Authors don't write these scenes with "mere words. Words are arguably the most powerful form of communication in the world when it comes to playing with a reader's emotions. Here are twenty steps to learning how to write love scenes that will live on in your readers' memories forever.
Please note that I've used examples from my own work throughout -- not because I believe I'm the only writer who can write effective love scenes, but because I'm a self-promoter to the extreme. Following these twenty steps, I'll list some of the greatest authors of love scenes. Decide what you're comfortable reading and writing.
It's becoming very vogue to write romance novels so hot, they'll melt in your hands. Does that mean you should join the crowd? It's a rare thing that an author will write a book with a level of sensuality they're not comfortable with because they'll automatically choose characters that fit their own comfort level. But don't dismiss the possibility simply because you're unfamiliar with the genre or assume that you don't have what it takes to kick it up a notch.
You might want to introduce yourself slowly to these steamier stories, if you have a story in mind that requires something a little more racy than you're used to. Read a little of everything to figure out what suits your writing style best.
I remember when I first started reading romances, I was a teenager and, at that point in my life, I was satisfied with both the Harlequin teen offerings as well as some of the raciest types of books around Carter Brown Mysteries.
In my twenties, I got a little more conservative in my reading, yet in my own writing I realized that the stories I had in mind required more overt sexuality. I started reading a wide range of books, acclimating myself to sexuality in books again and finding out what I liked and what I didn't.
I discovered that I liked Silhouette Intimate Moments because the emotional and physical love scenes were nicely balanced. A lot of the other category romances were too unbalanced either all sex, no emotions or all emotions, no sex for my tastes.
I also found that I liked the more racy "romantic erotica" most, as long as the emotions and characterizations were on even ground. Let your characters decide the level of intimacy, not publisher guidelines.
I used to base everything I wrote on what the publishers might buy. I suppose it makes some sense to do that when you're not published. Target your publisher, then tailor what you write to that set of guidelines. I'm not so sure. A part of me really believes that the reason I didn't sell all those years was because I was trying to write for everyone else except myself and what fit my characters.
If you're writing for someone else, you're not writing what's in your heart The same is true for love scenes. In every one of my books, the level of intimacy is a little different, depending on what that particular hero and heroine dictate.
Restless as Rain and Forever Man are strongly what I dub "romantic erotica" because the emotions are as hot as the physical lovemaking. The characters in these books are very extreme, larger than life and they demand a sexuality that suits their personalities. In First Love, the sexual tension is definitely there from start to finish and the love scenes are satisfying without being overtly erotic.
However, the hero and heroine in this book are in need of emotional healing, more so than sexual healing. Their lovemaking is part of that healing process, and it suited them to have emotionally sensual loves scenes rather than down-and-dirty, deep ones.
The heroine in the book was very innocent and naive. When she thought of lovemaking, it was always in a more "romantic" sense and, because she was so private, having more low-key love scenes were appropriate.
The sexual tension remained throughout, however. Give them what you promise. I read a Silhouette Intimate Moments a couple years, when they first introduced their "mainstream" theme, that was a wonderfully written story. Ultimately, however, I finished the book so disappointed I had to write to the editors about it.
This was a story that had all the ingredients of a fantastic read. So why was I disappointed? I was expecting a romance, a romance that would blossom and the characters come to life as they fell in love.
What I got was a romance that was a shadow to the external mystery and characters that came to life mostly in the external aspects. I felt very little for the characters in terms of their love bond. When they married at the end, I was only mildly glad. That same month, I read a Terry Brooks fantasy novel that contained a secondary element of romance that was never brought to complete fruition. I finished the book and immediately started the next in that series, completely satisfied.
So why was I disappointed with the romance I bought, but not with the fantasy? Because in the first, I fully expected a good, solid romance that was equally balanced with a good, solid plot. After all, I bought a Silhouette and I expected a romance, but, dammit, I didn't get it. In the fantasy, I never expected a romance, but there was one there nevertheless.
I felt I'd gotten something extra for my money and time. The moral of this story: Respect your readers for the time and money they invest in your book. If you set them up for a romance, give it to them in spades. If you set them up for a heavy, emotional drama, give it to them. If you set them up for a steamy romance that keep getting hotter and hotter, deliver it.
If you don't give them what you promised them, you'll leave your readers dissatisfied, maybe enough to avoid your next book. Make love scenes real instead of hokey or overly sentimental. Writing love scenes effectively is very hard to do, yet they're no harder to do write than an action scene.
A friend of mine told me recently that the editor-in-chief of a major trade house skips the love scenes when she reads because so many are utterly boring. So how do you make your love scenes real? People and relationships are tricky things. The word "normal" in the real world is an impossibility because if you broke down each person into the components they're made up of, you'd find someone who is illogical, contradictory, good and evil.
You'd find the makings of a hero and quite possibly the makings of a Mr. When you're writing a character, you're exploring those illogical, contradictory, good and evil people and their relationships.
You need those things to make a character three-dimensional. The relationship between a man and a woman is, I feel, the most complex one in existence.
Here you have two people, each with their own emotional baggage, screwball ways and contractions trying to or fighting against! The road to that point is utterly fascinating. You make your love scenes real by making your characters real. A fully fleshed out character will make your reader look at the world around them and the people in it in brand new ways. And a fully developed character will certainly make you want to find out what turns them on.
I can't imagine anything else that fits what sexual tension needs to be in a romance more aptly. In romantic fiction, an exaggerated awareness between the hero and heroine is so crucial, it can't be overstated. In a romance, you take for granted that these two were destined, meant to be, fated, designed for each other by God Himself. Therefore, every single look, touch, sense is made larger than life between them. The sexual tension must reach the breaking point and satisfy the reader and characters only temporarily until happily ever after.
When the hero touches the heroine, even accidentally, the reader can see sparks igniting between them. When he looks at her, a profound feeling comes over the characters and the reader. The emotional impact needs to be conveyed through their every encounter. Start sexual tension from the get-go. Exaggerated awareness between your hero and heroine needs to begin immediately, the first time they come together in your novel, and it needs to increase in depth with each subsequent meeting.
I remember I was critiquing a story for an unpublished writer a couple years ago, and we were at least halfway through the story. At this point, I not only didn't feel many sparks between her hero and heroine during their encounters, I was utterly humiliated when they began making love though the actual event was, thankfully! There's only one of two reasons for a reader not wanting a love scene to take place: If there's no tension between a couple, no exaggerated awareness, a love scene is going to shock and embarrass the reader as much as it will the characters.
The last thing a writer wants is a sensual scene that's awkward. When a hero and heroine finally come together for a kiss, an intimate touch or lovemaking, the reader has to be exulted, panting for consummation, ready to claw tooth and nail to see that these two characters have a clear path to the bedroom and aren't interrupted while there! And, most of all, they'll be satisfied when all is said and done. In this example, the hero and heroine are in the room together for the first time in two years.
This is also the first time they're in a room together in the book, so technically it's their very first encounter. Notice the details as you read this excerpt: It's as if time stands still for the heroine during those minutes of facing him without warning. The way they look at each other, their breathing, right down to the sound of their voices when they talk reveals the depth of their feelings for one another.
Before she could finish -- and fathom the strangely uncomfortable expression on her father's face -- the back door opened. Lori not only lost her train of thought, she lost all coordination.
Why didn't I prepare myself for this possibility?